When there is an emergency, our Tribal Governments operate the ambulances, health care clinics, and hospitals and our Native people are on the front line as first responders. In the CARES Act, Congress included Tribal Governments in funding for Coronavirus Relief along with State and Local Governments. On Tuesday, the Treasury Secretary announced the formula for allocating funding among the 574 Federally Recognized Indian nations and tribes that are Tribal Governments. Wrongly, the Secretary of the Treasury disregarded our status as Native sovereigns, our Treaty Rights to our homelands, and the status of our Native peoples as tribal members—citizens—of our Indian nations and tribes. Tribal members—tribal citizens—under the original jurisdiction of Indian nations are recognized in the Constitution as “Indians not taxed.” Rather than count our tribal citizens, Treasury used the U.S. Census that counts those who self-identify as Native American by race or mixed-race to allocate funds. The Secretary’s action reflects a fundamental disregard for Indian nations as sovereigns. Finally, the Secretary of the Treasury maintains that Alaska Native state-chartered corporations can be considered Indian tribes. Yet the Secretary of Interior published a list of Federally Recognized Indian Tribes on January 30, 2020 that includes Alaska Native villages, but no Alaska state chartered corporations. Treasury’s effort to equate Indian nations with state law corporations is contrary to the Constitution, statutes, and laws of the United States. We call upon Congress to set this to rights: 1) Use the Federally Recognized Tribe List Act to determine who the recognized Indian tribes are—(we are not state law corporations.) 2) Use Indian Country as the measure of Indian lands in recognition of tribal jurisdiction. 3) Put the Alaska Native Corporations with the other corporate businesses under Small Business Relief, Main Street Loans or corporate relief. There is no need to consult the Bureau of Indian Affairs on these clear rules of Federal Indian law.
Donovan White serves as chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, an Indian nation with homelands in present-day South Dakota and North Dakota. Courtesy photo
Donovan White serves as chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, an Indian nation with homelands in South Dakota and North Dakota.
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